As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Don't Make Me Save The Planet!

So those centrist House Democrats have bought into the myth that government can do too much, asking Nancy Pelosi to set aside their climate change bill in favor of health care - even though the Senate has managed the health care bill and the House the climate change bill, an appropriate division of labor. Pardon me for suggesting another reason - these centrists want to protect the polluting industries in their districts.

Democratic centrists are pressing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to set aside a flagging climate change bill to focus on what they think is a more achievable goal: overhauling the nation’s healthcare system.

But those close to Pelosi (D-Calif.) say she is charging forward on cap-and-trade legislation, despite the potential defections of Democrats who represent states with industries that would be adversely affected by the bill [...]

Democratic aides say the sentiment for putting healthcare first is felt most strongly among New Democrats.

“A lot of our members feel that healthcare has a higher likelihood, so getting that done first and then doing energy makes sense,” said an aide to a New Democratic leader.

“New Dems are in a tough spot,” said one Blue Dog member, explaining that New Democrats are more likely to have an environmental constituency at odds with their business constituency. Blue Dogs, by comparison, have more freedom simply to vote no on climate change legislation.

Whew, I wouldn't want those Blue Dogs to feel conflicted about voting against doing something about a boiling planet! Thank Jeebus they have some "freedom."

We hear plenty about the costs of action. Artur Davis (D-AL) says in this article, "in the throes of a recession, more of a burden on industry is not a good idea.” But inaction has a cost, too. Bills that quantify a certain change in policy must be scored and the costs must be announced. The cost of doing nothing can more easily be ignored. That would be a grave mistake.

The real cost of carbon emissions is far from zero. Each new scientific report brings proof of a changing climate that promises to disrupt agricultural patterns, set off a scramble for dwindling resources, raise sea levels, propel population shifts and require massive emergency spending as we try to react to the growing crises. These are the costs of inaction.

A smart climate policy can create a mechanism to put the right price on carbon, and rapid economic change will follow that firm price signal, along with reduced climate risks. Our work with more than 100 economists nationwide and at demonstrates the weight of economic analysis supporting this point.

The whole point of climate legislation is to price externalities that we already spend. When children acquire asthma from pollution, when naval ships ensure safe passage for petroleum from the Middle East, when droughts affect farm crops, when houses flood and rivers pour over their banks, those costs come, at least in part, from burning carbon. We have several options for pricing those carbon emissions, but the most important thing we can do is employ a cap, to bend the curve of the increased costs from climate change in exactly the same way that we must bend the curve of increased health care costs by eliminating the hidden costs of the uninsured. The problems are exactly the same.

If we fail to cap carbon because some coal-state lawmakers refuse to take a tough vote, then in 5 or 10 years, we'll return to Congress, talking about capping carbon after spending hundreds of billions as a result of making parts of the planet uninhabitable. The political system doesn't deal with the future very well, sadly.

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